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Russo's Rants

Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Wild sticks with shuffled top lines from win against Edmonton

Finally, this five-game, 12-day odyssey wraps up Wednesday here in Toronto. I’ve been in Canada so long, I’ve started to adopt a bit of a Canadian accent and end every sentence with, “eh?”

Hopefully you read my feature today on Bruce Boudreau, the movie nut. Some real fun stuff in there.

Here's the feature

And here's the charticle that went with it where Boudreau talks about some of his favorite movies, movie lines and why he actually kinda now regrets being in the movie, Slap Shot.

Wild and Leafs at Air Canada Centre. 6:30 p.m. CT puck drop.

The Wild has beaten the Leafs in six straight games (five one-goal wins) but is 3-6 all-time in Toronto. The Wild has scored one goal or less in seven of eight all-time losses vs. the Leafs. In its nine wins, it has outscored the Leafs 28-12.

Devan Dubnyk vs. Frederik Andersen, Boudreau’s old Ducks goalie. The two reunited before the Wild practiced today at the Maple Leafs’ practice facility.

Boudreau has great affection for Andersen. He said he told GM Lou Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock at the draft after the trade with Anaheim that he was the “real deal” and would win a lot of games here.

He started in a big funk and Boudreau said Andersen learned how you need a thick skin in the Center of the Hockey Universe because every little thing is scrutinized. But he has learned and is on quite a roll (4-2-1 last seven with a 1.85 goals-against average and .938 save percentage).

It’ll be an interesting game Wednesday. Leafs return from a long road trip, which is usually funky and flat, and the Wild’s finishing a long road trip, which often is funky and a disaster for teams as they look forward to getting home.

Wild can’t afford that, as you know.

“I hope it doesn’t happen in this city,” said Boudreau, the former Leaf and local. “I have enough trouble winning in Toronto when I come, so I hope we’re ready to play. We’re coming off a pretty good win in Edmonton, and we’d like to continue this because then we’ll have a good stretch at home.”

Boudreau is 4-5-3 all-time in Toronto, 0-3-1 in his last four (outscored 23-10) with his goalies having a .781 save percentage.

Of course, the Wild’s used to playing close, close games. In fact, it has only lost by more than a goal ONCE this season.

Boudreau continued to pump Dubnyk’s tires for this factoid. He leads the NHL in save percentage (.945), shutouts (four) and goals-against average (1.63).

“I know we don’t get as much press as the people up here, but he’s been as good as any goalie in the league,” Boudreau said.

Leafs, led by Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner (tied for second among rookies with 19 points each, are also 4-1 in their past five at home, with the four wins all being with four or more goals scored.

“I’ve watched their home games, and when they’re on, you better be ready to play,” Boudreau said. “They’re going to very good, very good. It’s not going to take too long for these guys to be extremely good.”

In practice today, Boudreau stuck with the lines from the final two periods in Edmonton, meaning Zach Parise skated with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter (seven points in his past seven games) skated with Eric Staal (no goals in his last 12 games) and Charlie Coyle (leads the Wild with nine goals, has six points and is +7 in six career games vs. Toronto).

Parise has four goals and nine points in 17 games. He has 52 shots (3.1 a game) and a .076 shooting percentage.

But maybe a good sign was the amount of scoring chances with Haula and Pominville. In the Oilers game, he hit a post, hit a defender in the net on an open-net backhander, was stopped on a breakaway and had the puck pokechecked off his stick on a breakaway.

“That’s the first sign of coming back is getting chances,” Boudreau said. “It’s when you’re playing and nothing’s going in and you’re not getting any opportunities, that’s the time you start to worry about it. My dad used to tell me that every time I played, he says, ‘Are you getting chances? How many shots on goal did you get?’ That was his criteria as to whether things were going to start to go good for you or you better get your butt in gear.”

I talked to Parise, and you can hear from him in Wednesday’s paper.

Only other change? Well, they actually did this in Edmonton, but Matt Dumba is off the power play for now (one goal, two assists on the power play this season). He has been coughing up pucks left and right on the power play, although so has many guys. Jason Pominville takes his spot for now at the point.

“We’ve got to try something,” said Boudreau, his team 0 for 9 on the power play this trip. “It’s been going in fits and starts.”

He noted how the Wild’s power play was nearly 23 percent in November, but it didn’t feel that way.

“And we’ve started off December not too well,” he said. “Hopefully we get two one game and it’ll jumpstart us again.”

I spent last night’s four-game action in the NHL Situation Room at NHL headquarters. Third time I’ve done that, and hopefully you’ve read my articles the last two seasons from inside there. Fun night to be in there: Bunch of reviews, challenges, a couple overturned goals.

They are just a very professional crew, so thorough, and it’s quite the operation. I always appreciate them letting me sit in there.

Tonight, all the Central Division teams are in action except the Wild, so Wild’s bound to lose ground, although the Wild has games in hand on everybody (and soon to be five games in hand on a couple teams).

I’ll be on KFAN at 9:15-9:50 a.m. Wednesday.

Talk to ya Wednesday, eh?

Postgame: Koivu delivers much-needed win

Jonas Gustavsson got a little pokecheck happy and it finally cost him.

Not long after he stopped Zach Parise in overtime for a second time in the game on a breakaway by using the good ole pokecheck to ruin No. 11’s chance, Gustavsson tried to do the same thing later in overtime against Mikko Koivu.

But the captain pulled back the puck, dance to his right and swept a backhander into a gaping net for a 2-1 Wild win and his fifth career overtime goal (first since 3-on-3 was implemented) to tie Brent Burns for the team record.

Charlie Coyle set it up with a nice little drop pass after Matt Dumba made a good play to retreat, then get the puck in the zone after a line change.

“I had just jumped out there and they were a little late seeing me,” Coyle said. “Dums passed it up over the blue line. I looked up and saw Mikko and he gave me the head nod that he was going to come over, so I tried to cut to the middle to cause some confusion and he picked it up and had a half step on the guy and made a great move. That's a big win.”

On the head nod, Koivu said, “Don’t trust what he said.”

The Wild won for a seventh consecutive time since 2013 in Edmonton and improved to 12-1 in its past 13 visits here (but its first to the new rink).

The Wild improved to 1-1-2 on the five-game trip that ends in Toronto on Wednesday.

How crazy are the standings right now? Had the Wild lost in any fashion, it would have fallen out of the top-8 in the West. With the Wild, it’s technically back in the third spot in the Central with 28 points, but the top and bottom wildcard teams also have 28 points, as does the ninth-place team in the West.

So, in other words, the Wild – like the others – are kind of on a precipice right now, although the Wild has played FOUR fewer games than eighth-place Winnipeg and ninth-place Calgary.

“I'll tell you what, the division and the conference and everything is so darn close, every win, two points, feels like a mountain,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I suspect it's going to go like that from now until April. It's nice to win a one goal game and I'm hoping we gain confidence from it.”

Turning point tonight? A shrewd fight by Kurtis Gabriel.

Wild was lifeless, sloppy and looking poor in the first period. Somehow, Zack Kassian did the no-no. Playing a out-of-sync team lacking confidence and at home, he fought Gabriel with a 1-0 Oilers lead.

Not bright. Forty seconds later, in the final minute of the first, Coyle tied the score and the Wild escaped a badly-played period tied and feeling good.

Gabriel got mad props in the locker room for the move, and the fight was definitely in response to Gabriel crushing an Oiler his previous shift. Boudreau felt the turning points of the game came in the first with Gabriel’s hit, then Gabriel’s fight, then a Chris Stewart big hit.

Boudreau felt it gave the team confidence.

Something else happened. With Gabriel in the locker room after the fight and a few shifts left in the period, Boudreau took the opportunity to take Zach Parise off the top line with Eric Staal and Coyle. He reunited Nino Niederreiter, who was on the line before Parise’s return from a knee injury last month, on the line and Niederreiter immediately set up Coyle on their first shift back together.

Niederreiter flew in on the forecheck, Staal passed to Niederreiter, Niederreiter took a shot from the side of the net, gobbled up the rebound and found Coyle when things opened up.

Boudreau said the line change worked good for everybody because Parise had a ton of scoring chances – he was snakebit, hitting a post, missing a goal on a delayed penalty and not scoring on two breakaways, but it was the most active he’s looked since the Pittsburgh game – and Coyle played “outstanding” the final two periods.

Another turning point?

Connor McDavid was pulled from the game by the concussion spotter after his chin hit the ice in the second period on a Jared Spurgeon tripping penalty. Then, Nate Prosser took a delay of game penalty that led to another power play, including a 9-second 5-on-3. The Oilers were forced to play without their best player for the final 8:14 of the second.

McDavid was held to three shots and Devan Dubnyk, who made 28 saves, also denied McDavid on a 2-on-1 with 3:16 left. Boudreau said comically he could not wait to get the two defensemen off the ice on that shift (don’t remember who they were).

“Not the play I want to see coming for sure,” Dubnyk said. “I kind of prepared for a shot. He had made some pretty crazy passes on some rushes that just missed all game. So I figured that he was probably tired of that and was going to rip one at me. He can shoot the puck so it was nice to get that save.”

Dubnyk fell back like the puck got by him. It didn’t.

“I was like 95 percent sure that I had it,” he said. “It was in my armpit and I could feel it. It was better off to turn around on that in case it does trickle out.”

Dubnyk leads the NHL with a .946 save percentage and is second with a 1.63 goals-against average.

Koivu, who has four goals and seven points in his past seven games, was rock solid, winning 21 of 23 in the circle (91 percent). Boudreau said he’s never seen a percentage that high for that number of draws and said Koivu controlled the game all night when he was on the ice and was a true leader tonight.

“Some nights it’s always better than others,” Koivu said. “It’s like anything, when you feel good, there’s a good rhythm when you go in there. There were a lot of faceoffs tonight. Defensemen and my wingers have been great all year. They did again tonight. It’s not just the centers.”

On the win, it relieves some pressure with the team finally getting a win on this endless trip.

“We definitely wanted it,” Coyle said. “We wanted to redeem ourselves here and get back to playing our way. It wasn't a perfect game by any means. At the end of the day we get two points and that's huge on this road trip.”

That’s it for me. The Wild has a travel day Monday to Toronto and isn’t practicing. Same with me.

I’m shadowing the NHL Situation Room for the third time Monday night in Toronto, so maybe I’ll tweet from there. Otherwise, talk to you after practice Tuesday. Also, pay attention to Twitter for questions for Tuesday’s Russo-Souhan Show. Later.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Wild at Toronto

    6:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto

    6 pm on TNT, 830-AM

  • Army at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    6 pm

  • Edmonton at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Georgia Southern at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Vikings at Jacksonville

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Gophers women's basketball at South Carolina

    2 pm on SECN, 88.5-FM

  • Northern Illinois at Gophers men's basketball

    4 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    5 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Golden State at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Florida at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Chicago

    7 pm on ESPN, 830-AM

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Today's Scoreboard

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No MLS games today